Every mature company in every industry in every part of the world is at risk from outside disruptors — and every large business in the world knows it.
In the face of this danger, senior executives often feel helpless. They have watched as one industry after another has been overrun by smart, agile new companies armed with the latest technology, tons of venture capital, and radically new business models. They have seen great companies stumble, or disappear, when they failed to find an adequate response. And they have had to explain to shareholders why they left billions of dollars of market cap on the table that should rightfully have been theirs.
But inside every company is a portfolio of game-changing new ventures waiting to be unleashed.
For two years in a row, Jamie Dimon, chair of JPMorgan Chase, sent a letter to his shareholders in the company’s annual report saying that what is keeping him up at night is the fear that “Silicon Valley is coming and they all want to eat our lunch.” Akio Toyoda, head of mighty Toyota, announced that his company now is in a “life-or-death struggle because the rules have changed.” And veteran Silicon Valley insider John Chambers, retired CEO and chair of Cisco, conducted a farewell tour around the world ranting to roomfuls of fellow CEOs that 40 percent of them are going to be out of business in ten years—because “70 percent of you are going to attempt to embrace digital transformation, but only 30 percent are going to succeed.”
Senior executives often feel helpless. They have watched as one industry after another has been overrun by smart, agile new companies armed with the latest technology, tons of venture capital, and radically new business models.
The doleful message is that the future is bleak. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. Hospitality? Look at what Airbnb is doing to traditional hotels. Look at what Joby Aviation is doing to all forms of transportation—planes, trains, and automobiles. Amazon, to retailing and now health care. Rocket Mortgage, Chime Bank, and Stripe to every player in the financial services Industry…
CB Insights reports that there are 1,135 Unicorns in the world valued at over $3.8 trillion, many — if not all — of which could have easily been founded by a Global 1000 company.
But, hey, why fight the inevitable? Because it isn’t inevitable. It doesn’t have to be this way, you aren’t going to go out of business, you don’t have to be leaving so much money on the table, and you don’t need to keep losing your best and your brightest to some startup that, frankly, has a lot less likelihood of succeeding than the ventures you produce.
Here’s the truth:
- You can succeed against clever new startups and beat them at their own game.
- You can disrupt from within and generate meaningful growth, and you can do that forever by building your own incubator and accelerator, your own growth engine.
- You have advantages that new startups can never hope to match—as long as you don’t get in your own way and fail to leverage those advantages. You have ideas, talent, capital, brand, technology, channels, and best of all, you have customers, often millions of them.
Silicon Valley…operates on a few simple rules repeated thousands of times each day.
You Can Unleash the Unicorns Within
Silicon Valley doesn’t run on some arcane alchemy; rather, it operates on a few simple rules repeated thousands of times each day. Understand customer pain, marry that with the art of the possible—the technology and trends currently available to solve that pain — and place a series of small bets. It’s not wizardry. Put it all together and you’ll find a handful of basic, easily replicable activities that, yes, mere mortals can accomplish.
As the well-regarded founder of Cowboy Ventures, Aileen Lee, noted when she coined the term in 2013, and Dan Primack and Erin Griffith further defined in a Fortune cover story in 2015, “A Unicorn is a privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more.”
Imagine what a valuation like that would do to your market capitalization.
It’s time to embrace your internal entrepreneurs. It is time to leverage your core competencies, assets, and customers. It’s time to believe in your ability to launch new ventures, as they represent your best chance of beating the disruptors knocking down your walls.
In my new book, The Unicorn Within: How Companies Can Create Game-Changing Ventures at Startup Speed, I hope to truly democratize Mach49’s work by making our methodology, tools, processes, and so much more available to everyone who aspires to disrupt themselves from the inside out — to drive meaningful growth and positive change through venture building — from C-suites to internal entrepreneurs, SMBs, government and regional authorities, startups, NGOs, nonprofits and many more.
Linda Yates is the Founder and CEO of Mach49, a global growth accelerator built to help large corporations incubate and invest in start-ups that address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Mach49 is one of InnoLead’s strategic partners, and one of the supporters of our initiative exploring venture studios & venture builders. This piece is excerpted from Yates’s new book, The Unicorn Within: How Companies Can Create Game-Changing Ventures at Startup Speed, which is being published by HBR Press and is available on Amazon. Learn more at https://www.theunicornwithin.com.